Submarine Maintenance a Tricky Task
by JO2 Kenny Ragland, USN

Berthed along a grey cement pier in San Diego, USS Georgia (SSGN-729), an Ohio-class submarine, dwarfed the attack submarines near which it had been moored from June to October.

Working on these two different classes of submarines has presented a challenge to Commander Submarine Squadron (CSS-11) Submarine Maintenance Division according to Jerry Badders, a civilian assistant maintenance coordinator.

“Before, the only naval bases that normally worked on Ohio-class submarines were Bangor, Washington, and Kings Bay, Georgia,” said Machinists Mate 1st Class (SS) Mathew Lee. “Now, with the conversion to SSGN, the ships will pull into ports that previously only worked on fast attacks.”

LCDR David McConaghy, the production management associate for Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC), helped organize the work onboard Georgia.

“We did the mast and antenna work for Georgia,” said McConaghy. “We also installed the new hull fittings for their mast and antenna communication’s equipment.

“We have published maintenance procedures for the SSNs but nothing for the SSGNs. But that’s why it’s here, so we can learn to perform maintenance on any submarine that pulls into port,” explained McConaghy.

Also participating in the SSGN evolution was LTJG Jim Hornef, maintenance coordinator for CSS-11.

“This was an experiment to see if maintenance could be performed on an SSGN away from its home port,” said Hornef. “Coordinating delivery of parts to the ship through CSS-11 was a challenge, but it can be done.”

“They’re trying to put an SSBN into a 688 [attack submarine] skin,” said Jerry Badders, civilian assistant maintenance coordinator. “The SSGN Sailors are used to pulling into port and having someone come onboard to perform the maintenance. Now, they will have to do what the SSN crews have always done – perform much of the maintenance themselves.”

The new experiment is already showing some cost savings.

Georgia is one of four Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines (SSBN) that are being converted to guided missile submarines (SSGN). As the Navy transforms itself, Special Operations Forces (SOF) are playing an increasingly greater role in the nation’s defense strategy. The conversion of four ballistic-missile submarines to SSGNs will provide SOF the ability to conduct clandestine missions for extended periods of time. An SSGN will accommodate up to 66 SOF personnel, two Advanced SEAL Delivery Systems (ASDS), or two Dry Deck Shelters (DDS) or one of each. In addition, the SSGN will offer improved high data rate communications capabilities and an onboard Battle Management Center.

On the SSGN, the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability will be replaced by modifying 22 of the 24 missile tubes to hold seven Tomahawk missiles each, allowing for a maximum load of 154 Tomahawks.

JO2 Ragland is assigned to the Joint Public Affairs Support Element (JPASE) in Norfolk.

Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005